"Team Globalization": Is the New Era of NASCAR Good or Bad for Competition?

Lee FraserCorrespondent INovember 26, 2012

Roger Penske's team will switch from Dodge to Ford in 2013, and will use Roush/Yates engines, limiting Penske's control of the engines in his own racecars.
Roger Penske's team will switch from Dodge to Ford in 2013, and will use Roush/Yates engines, limiting Penske's control of the engines in his own racecars.Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

With the end of the 2012 season and series champion's team moving to Ford and getting rid of its own engine department, you have to wonder if the sport is headed in the right direction.

My reference to "Team Globalization" means that I'm looking at NASCAR as the world, and each race team as countries. With the overlap of all the race teams nowadays, it's a lot like globalization. But is globalization good for NASCAR?

Now there are now only six engine companies in the Sprint Cup Series. Chevy has two, Hendrick Motorsports, and Earnhardt-Childress Racing engines. Each of the Chevrolet teams gets their engine provided to them by one of those companies.

Hendrick Motorsports provides for themselves (four cars), Stewart-Haas Racing (three cars), Phoenix Racing (one car) and now also Earnhardt Ganassi Racing (two cars).

Earnhardt-Childress provides for Richard Childress Racing (three cars), Furniture Row Racing (one car), Tommy Baldwin Racing (two cars), Circle Sport Racing (No. 33 team, one car) and Max Q Motorsports (one car).

So, amongst the two Chevrolet engine companies, there are 18 race teams. That's 42 percent of the 43-car field.

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And the other manufacturers are worse.

Let's look at Ford. Ford has one engine company, Roush/Yates engines.

They provide for Roush Fenway Racing (three cars), Penske Racing (two full-time, one part-time), Richard Petty Motorsports (two cars), Front Row Motorsports (three cars), Wood Brothers Racing (one part-time), FAS Lane Racing (one car), Germain Racing (one car), Leavine Family Racing (one car), Phil Parsons Racing (one car) and Go Green Racing (car No. 79).

That's a lot of race teams as well. All running engines from the same engine department.

Toyota has three engine departments, however.

One is very large, and the there are two other smaller ones.

Toyota Racing Development (TRD) provides engines for Toyota's biggest teams, Joe Gibbs Racing (three cars) and Michael Waltrip Racing (three cars)

Then there's JTG/Daugherty Racing, who receives support from TRD but used a TRT engine in 2012.

TRT or Triad Racing Technologies is next. They provide engines for teams such as NEMCO Motorsports (one car), BK Racing (two cars) and Inception Motorsports (one car). This engine company is more prevalent in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series.

And finally, there's Pro Motors Engineering, owned by Tri-Star Motorsports' Mark Smith, who co-owns Humphrey-Smith Racing and Pro Motors, provides engines for those two race teams.

For years, Roger Penske has ran his own engine shop, and furthermore, didn't share that engine information with any race teams. He was on an island all by himself, and Penske Racing was able to make strides on its own without anyone else.

Now Penske Racing has to rely on Roush Fenway Racing. Only Tony Stewart's team has won a championship in the last 15 years not using engines owned by the team owner themselves, and they technically tied.

Just look back. Even since the Yates/Roush merger, Jack Roush's team hasn't won a championship. Eventually Robert Yates Racing went out of business.

Richard Petty scrapped his engine company when he was running Dodges and used Ray Evernham's engines. Eventually, Petty Enterprises closed.

DEI and what was Ginn Racing also went out of business shortly after a merger with Richard Childress Racing.

So is this "globalization" good for NASCAR? I say no.

I think that the classic way of a team running its own engine department is still the way to go in this sport.

I know that the MWR cars ran well this year, but they also have to share engine information with Joe Gibbs Racing. So MWR has at least three teams, not including themselves, getting just the same information and running just as fast as them.

Plus, if one engine department has something go wrong, that whole manufacturer will suffer. Look at how many times we see engine failures now, and look for the other cars who run those engines to have the same difficulties.

This is not a good wave for NASCAR and certainly not for Penske Racing either.

So what can NASCAR do about this?

For one, eliminate the gear rule. The gear rule was created to try and lessen the blown engines teams have. And it's done its job. But this hampered the smaller teams and the smaller engine departments.

Here's why: The smaller teams may not have as much horsepower, but if their engine could last 400 or 500 miles, then they'd beat the teams that couldn't.

Now they have no choice but to shut down their department because not as many teams blow engines. So their lack of horsepower was significant. In order to catch up, they had to pay the big teams to get engines that somewhat compete, but still keep these small teams where they are with no room to grow.

If an engine department grows, the team who owns it will grow first. That's just the way it is. These smaller teams coming in are at an even greater disadvantage.

Eliminating the gear rule can have smaller teams with a lot of money start their own engine program and have it grow from there.

Also, NASCAR, just like they do with teams themselves, should limit the number of teams an engine provider can provide to.

Forcing new engine companies to start up will give teams will have no choice but to jump to the new engine department. If they're running something different, then maybe the engine department can grow, and with a team other than the major ones. This will make the sport more competitive.

I think that, overall, NASCAR and the people in racing think that having every team run the exact same stuff will make the best drivers stand out. But with so many rules on how to adjust the cars during the race, drivers and teams can't really do much either. If everyone is the same, that may lead to side-by-side racing, or what we have today in follow the leader.

But if they can crack down on this globalization of teams maybe NASCAR will benefit and have the smaller teams grow, and let the best team win in that way. After all, isn't that how these powerhouse teams got started in the first place?

Finally, I think Penske Racing is committing NASCAR suicide by moving to use Roush/Yates engines. Roger Penske is a wonderful business man, and one hell of a team owner. He's made very few mistakes in the past, so maybe I'm wrong and maybe this is the new wave of NASCAR. But part of the reason they won was because they had great fuel mileage in their own engines, something they'll have no control of in 2013.